Manufacturing butanol, ethanol, and acetone through grain fermentation has been attracting increasing research interest. In the production of these chemicals from fermentation, the cost of product recovery constitutes the major portion of the total production cost. Developing cost-effective flowsheets for the downstream processing is, therefore, crucial to enhancing the economic viability of this manufacturing method. The present work is concerned with the synthesis of such a process that minimizes the cost of the downstream processing. At the outset, a wide variety of processing equipment and unit operations, i.e., operating units, is selected for possible inclusion in the process. Subsequently, the exactly defined superstructure with minimal complexity, termed maximal structure, is constructed from these operating units with the rigorous and highly efficient graph-theoretic method for process synthesis based on process graphs (P-graphs). Finally, the optimal and near-optimal flowsheets in terms of cost are identified.
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